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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  January 21, 2014 4:00pm-5:01pm PST

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100 years. in south carolina today, court held a hearing on the case of george steny as part of a new path to clear george's name. and to get a pardon 70 years after his death. throughout the jim crow era, untold thousands of black americans faced similar injustices, but it's never too late to right a wrong. and for george steny, and all of us, this wrong must be made right. thanks for watching. i'm al sharpton. "hardball" starts right now. when does political hardball cross the line? let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews out in san francisco. let me ignite things tonight with this statement by the former new jersey attorney general and former u.s.
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attorney, robert deltufo, that prosecutors may be looking at a rico charge against the office of governor chris christie. is this real? is there a case that the pattern of politics here evident in the bridge closings, the possible denial of hurricane relief money to hoboken, the accusations by a democratic of interfering with a judicial proceedings in huntingdon county constitutes evidence of a criminal enterprise? is this what led federal authorities to interview mayor dawn zimmer? would this hold up to jury scrutiny, even a grand jury? is playing rough to redevelop your reelection vote possibly a pattern of action that could be incriminating? is running for president himself in this case a criminal enterprise? well, the rico statute signed into law by richard nixon in 1970 allows a person to be charged for actions which he did not personally commit. it is used by prosecutors to reach someone who masterminds a criminal enterprise without committing the actions himself or herself. again, can it be said that a
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governor whose people shut down traffic lanes out of vengeance, who allegedly shut down the flow of hurricane money out of reprisal, who maybe have interfered with a judicial proceeding to help friends and punish prosecutors cute criminal enterprise. according to a former new jersey attorney general and u.s. attorney, this could be the garden state trail that federal agents are now pursuing. our question tonight, when does hardball politics become a crime? and is the behavior of the new jersey governor and his tainted political crew such a case? michael isikoff, cnbc news investigative correspondent, and stanley, current public corruption lawyer. he was general counsel to the u.s. house of representatives. michael isikoff, what do you make of? what has been said by deltufo about a possible rico statute investigation? >> things in the last few days have gotten much more serious for governor christie. the allegations from the hoboken
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mayor, the fact that the u.s. attorney calls her in on a sunday on a holiday weekend to take her story and lock her in. and then today having the assembly in the senate join together in a super committee that is going to issue subpoenas and pursue the trail. all that makes it very difficult for the governor and he's got real trouble ahead. but, you know, i think we're a long way from a federal prosecutor naming his entire administration or governorship a criminal enterprise. there is still huge chapters in this that are blank. we don't know why those bridge closures were really ordered in the first place and who ordered them. we don't know if there is a connection behind the -- to the hoboken matter. we don't even know in the hoboken matter what the motivation there was. we know that the project at issue was the rockefeller group, represented by david sampson,
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one of the governor's most closest political advisers. were there representations by samson to the governor? was he urging? these are all matters of speculation at this point. but look, clearly, there is a lot more we have to learn before we can make the kind of leaps that you're making there. >> well, it's not my leap. let's listen to what mr. deltufo had to say earlier today on msnbc. >> it seems as if more things are popping up. and i wouldn't be surprised if there were a potential rico case here that the enterprise would be the governor's office or the state of new jersey and the offenses would involve bridgegate, would involve hoboken and would also involve hunterdon county, which is something that has not been addressed very clearly. >> let me go to stan.
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what jumps out at me after looking at hundreds of these cases, you have very familiar with these kinds of cases, the hunterdon case, if it's true that the governor's people used muscle to knock out a prosecution, then fire all the prosecutors because they were protecting some friends of theirs, that seems to be a more grievous situation and involving political muscle. and maybe it does fit into a rico statute if you can't trace to it the governor himself fingering these actions, you have to look at a pattern. what does your experience tell you? i know you have had the rostenkowski case. i know you have seen cases that you don't think are brought as a defense attorney what do you make of the reference to rico? >> overblown and premature. it's fun to spin those out. rico, whatever you say however broadly is written, it requires predicate offenses, that is a state or federal law that has been violated with sufficient criminal intent to engage that statute. i'm not sure i know what the crime is yet in this case.
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it may be that the promises to the -- or threats of withholding federal moneys to the mayor in hoboken cute the violation of an old title 18 statute coming from the 1880s. there may be other statue at play. but to talk about rico at this stage i think is way over the top. >> is it used to try to reach someone who doesn't have fingerprints on any particular act? isn't that how it is used? >> it has been used that way. but as i say, there still have to be crimes. and there have to be crimes recognized on federal and state law before one can invoke that statute. by the way, whether governor christie is insulated from all of this as he says he is yet to be determined. that's what the state investigative committee is going to look at, and that's what the u.s. attorney is going to look at. remember, 17 subpoenas for his staff and the port authority staff have been issued.
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and those people haven't been heard from yet. >> how would you defend the client -- let me go back to the issue of criminality here, because you're the lawyer. if it were established by tape recording, whatever, by credible witness that there was a message delivered by the lieutenant governor, guadagno, to mayor zimmer that if she didn't play ball on the rockefeller project on the waterfront there she wouldn't get any more federal money from the state, i mean more state money. would that be if that were determined to be a fact, you're saying that wouldn't be criminal? >> right. i would defend that the same way i defended on your show when they promised joe sestak a job to get him out of the race against arlen specter. it's political maneuvering. not every political maneuver, not every hardball political threat is a crime. >> but how about denial of appropriate federal funding that would otherwise be due? >> yes. yes, that could cross the line that could be a problem if that
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occurred. >> well, that's what i'm asking. that's the case here. that's the matter here. back to michael. that is the matter. these are all allegations and only at that stage. but if these are proven, what are we talking about here if not rico? what are we talking about? >> look, there could be multiple crimes. but normally what the fbi would have wanted in a case like this is after the lieutenant governor made the statements that dawn zimmer said she made would have been for dawn zimmer to come to the fbi and they would wire her and then follow it through and get it on tape and be able to prove it, and then show that there is some nexus. that's the way they would want to make a federal case. i don't think they've got that here. so then the question is what do the records show? what do the documents show? are they going to be able to show that there was -- that there was a clear effort by the governor's office to get this project approved after getting communications from david samson or other people on behalf of the
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rockefeller group. and we don't know if they exist at this point. >> and the u.s. attorney, a democratic appointee is not going to bring a rico case based on a swearing contest between the lieutenant governor and the mayor of hoboken. he is going to want what we lawyers call corroboration. is the contemporaneous evidence that substantiates and will allow them to prove in front of a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that these things actually occurred. >> let's go to that point, stan. if you have a diary entry which is scribbled in a diary and can be ascertained to be authentic by experts in real-time, a contemporaneous corroboration, that stands up against an obviously self-interested denial. clearly, people are always going to deny their guilt. we're looking at it right now. you say it's just a swear versus swear. i would like to be on the side of the person who has the diary entries against somebody who is covering their butt. >> right. and the diary would have to be, believe me, the fbi will look very hard forensically at that diary to try to establish that it was written at the time.
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and if it is, that's very good corroborating evidence. >> well, i'm going back to the points of issue here. again, you're the lawyer. if you can say that federal funding was denied somebody which was appropriately due them, and you can produce corroborating evidence, contemporary testimony in the form of a diary entry, don't you have a pretty good case to take to a grand jury in that instance? >> if you have those things, yes. >> well, you got 'em! >> no. what is missing here, chris, is that the christie administration did deny funds to hoboken as a result of her refusal to approve that project. it may exist, but, look, they have pushed back very hard on that. they say hoboken was getting its fair share of funds. what she was asking for there was about one-third of all available state resources. so i'm not saying they're right, and there is still a lot. we're trying to piece together about what really happened here. but all i'm saying is we're
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missing a lot of pieces yet. >> okay. let's go to the house. let's go to the big development today. the house and the senate in trenton have done something a lot of people were worry they'd wouldn't do. they have combined forces. they have formed a joint committee of the house in the senate legislative investigative committees there. it's called a super committee. they've got the same guy, reid schar, who is this top flight guy coming in from the fitzgerald case -- or actually the blagojevich case out in illinois which he won that prosecution. let me go to stan. does this look like an important development that they've combined their legislative forces here? >> big-time. because you know, chris, from working in the congress, when you have competition and rivalries between two chambers' investigative committees you have problems. it's much better for them to try to coordinate and get together on this than be rival groups competing with one another. >> but at the end of the day, chris, they're going to be entirely dependent on the documents and the e-mails. >> i know. >> given the u.s. attorney's investigation, every key
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witness, at least those who are not in office, and there is a lot of them right now, they're going to take the same step wildstein took which is to invoke their fifth amendment privileges. we're not going to get live testimony. >> what do you get bridget kelly thinking her own gmail or aol account would somehow protect her from subpoena. michael, it seems to me if that's a continual problem within these people, you're going to see a lot of e-mail reaching the jury here. >> well, actually, we've seen a lot of the e-mails. and in bridget kelly's, it was yahoo account. every time they were discussing the brass knuckle political tactics they were using, they switched from their official accounts to their private e-mail accounts. and you see that in a pattern in all the e-mails we have seen to date. so, look, that shields them from an open records request, but it doesn't shield them from subpoena. that's how we got these e-mails. look, it's clear there is going to be a lot more, because we have a lot more subpoenas out.
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and i suspect we will be seeing a lot more. but whether we're going to get to the bottom of it, because we won't have that live testimony before the committee because of the reason i mentioned before, the fifth amendment. >> stan brand, last question to you. how high quality of legal talent is he going to need, the governor here, to face all the myriad charges and investigative committee. he's got the u.s. attorney there, he's got -- i don't know what he's got from the united states senate, but he's certainly got the trenton people after him. he is going to need one hell of a legal team. >> well, you know, he was a u.s. attorney himself. so he should be an excellent judge of what kind of legal talent he needs. and i assume he will do that at some point. >> and by the way, chris, david samson has retained mike chertoff, former homeland security secretary and just today retained another major super lawyer in new jersey, very close to new jersey democrats. that's for dealing with the legislature. >> okay, thank you so much,
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michael isikoff. the case brew continues. stan brand, as always, sir. coming up, how bad does the republican party need chris christie? as bad as it gets, polls consistently have shown that he, christie, is the only one that can give hillary clinton a fight for the presidency. so what do they do, the republicans, if they can't weather this storm and this guy is not up for it anymore? plus, president obama's candid rare comments about race in this country. the president said there is no doubt some americans don't like him because they don't like the idea of a black president. he just said that. he also said some voters give him the benefit of the doubt because he is african american. it's unusual talk from the president who generally shies away from the topic, as we know. any way, mr. obama said he might not be the big change he promised to be. he is now talking like he is ready to tee things up for hillary already in 2016. finally, let me finish with sarah palin's sinister remarks about the president playing the race card. and that is "hardball," the place for politics.
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i'm milissa rehberger. former republican governor bob mcdonnell and his wife have been indicted on corruption charges. mcdonnell and his wife were charged in federal court today. authorities say they illegally accepted gifts, vacations, and money from johnny williams, a wealthy richmond businessman who wanted special treatment from the state government. mcdonnell denies the charges, and here is what he said just a short time ago. >> have i apologized for my poor judgment, and i accept full responsibility for accepting these legal gifts and loans. however, i repeat again emphatically that i did nothing illegal for mr. williams in exchange for what i believed was his personal friendship and his generosity. i never promised and mr. williams and his company never
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received any government benefit of any kind for me or from my administration. >> mcdonnell left office when his term ended earlier this month. he was succeeded by democrat terry mcauliffe. back to chris matthews and "hardball" after this. opened some credit cards in her name. checking her experian credit report and score allowed her to better address the issue...and move right in. experian. [ male announcer ] to truck guys, the truck is everything. and when you put them in charge of making an unbeatable truck, good things happen. this is the ram 1500. the 2014 motor trend truck of the year. ♪ and first ever back-to-back champion. guts. glory. ram.
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welcome back to "hardball." new jersey governor chris christie even politically wounded could represent the republicans' best shot at electability in the 2016 presidential race. the headline of michael tomasky's daily beast article sums it up neatly. how bad does the gop need chris christie? really bad. and a brand-new quinnipiac poll hammers home the point. in a hypothetical head to head between hillary clinton and chris christie even today, clinton beats the new jersey governor by just eight points, 46 to 38. but a month ago before the dam broke on christie's problems, the two were virtually tied with actually christie up by a point, 42-41. but even after a brutal couple of weeks, christie still fares better against clinton than any
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other republican prospect polled by quinnipiac. hillary clinton beats senator rand paul by 10, 49-39. she beats former governor jeb bush by 11, an extra point, 49-38. she beats senator ted cruz by 15, 50-35. joining me right now, the daily beast michael tomasky and "the huffington post" editor-in-chief howard fineman and an msnbc analyst. we'll get to howard quickly. this is astounding. the weakness of this bench is so strong. they have one power point producer out there, and that's christie. and nothing behind him except horizontal middleweights. >> yeah, it's really true. and, you know, you didn't even go through the whole field. but there are other people who poll even worse. and the one that i'm most surprised by, chris, of that whole group is jeb bush. he is not way out there on the crazy fringes like some of the rest of those guys. he did a respectable job as governor of a huge state. but he is down there too.
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and clinton is close to or at 50% against all the rest of them. so those are real danger signs for the republicans. so they're praying that christie can somehow limp his way through this. >> howard, you look at history and the republican party, and it's almost like the democrats have taken the republican party methodology. there is a hillary clinton waiting. it's going to be her turn. she is going to get it. for all our life tooims as grownups since we were kids, you and i, the republican party has followed that pattern. nixon was on the ticket every year from '52 to '72 except for one year. from '52 you had a nixon, bush or dole on the ticket. they don't mess around with strangers. the new kid on the basketball court is never going to get in the game. but now they're going to have to put a new kid in the game if it's not christie. >> yeah, i agree with you, chris. i think the two parties have reversed identities on this. the democrats have the royalty in waiting, which is hillary clinton, as you said.
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and as michael said, the shocking numbers really about jeb bush. i would normally say okay, who cares about chris christie. you've got jeb bush in reserve. >> yeah. >> he is from the ultimate swing state of florida. he's fluent in spanish. he is married to a latina. he's got a wonderful family. he has -- as mike said, he did a pretty good job as governor. he would be perfect. but i think that -- that sort of method of doing things has ended in the republican party, which is now a sort of tea party mentality party constantly trying to kick over establishments, constantly looking for new answers, constantly desperate to try to think outside the box. the thing that was good about christie before he got in trouble was that in some respects, he was a traditional sort of moderate northeast republican governor in a blue state, but yet his style was insurgent. he was a new kind of politician outside the box, you know, new thinking.
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and that was a great combination. now that republicans don't have anybody like that. >> let's take a look, mike. you sum -- mike, you sum up the republicans' 2016 problem this way, quote. the fact that the gop establishment needs to come face-to-face with this, that they have no one to blame but themselves, they have reached the point where they almost have to have a northeasterner like christie to run for president, just as they had to settle for romney last time, they have let their party go so far off the deep end that practically no republican office holder from any other part of the country could appeal to enough moderates to win back the territory the party ceded to the democrats in the last election. so this is ironic. the party that is based in the south and the rocky mountains needs a northeasterner to win. >> it is. and it's really interesting to me. and, you know, this math is really something that everybody ought to know. the republicans come in, whoever their nominee, whether it's chris christie or, you know, bobby jindal. the republicans come in to a
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presidential race with a basically more or less solid of the -- 206 electoral votes. the democrats come in, whether it's hillary clinton or anybody else with a more or less solid 157 electoral votes. that leaves five swing stients the table, florida, ohio, virginia, nevada, and the democrats only 13 shy of 270. so the republicans have a lot of heavy lifting to do, whoever these two personalities are, chris. they have a long way to go. they start from a really bad deficit numerically in the electoral college. >> there is a couple of things, howard. i notice who has been out defending christie, it's the ethic guys of the northeast. they identify with that republican. graham from staten island giuliani. the northeastern people that became republicans in the last 30 years, maybe one generation. and the other thing i've noticed is jeb bush isn't going anywhere because i don't think he
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hates -- i think you got to have -- maybe not be a hater. that's a strong word. you have to have some edge this your politics. >> right. >> and i don't think he's got that edge that appeals to the tea party people, that edge of anger about the way things are. >> that's right. jeb doesn't have the accusatory style that you need. and that's what was such a good combination about christie, what still is a good combination about him, the moderate to some extent moderate politics and the sort of outsider accusatory edge. the problem the republicans have isn't just the electoral college, although it is that, as michael said. it's also related to demography. chris christie in his inaugural address today talked about reaching out to hispanics, to other people. but he is going to be tied down with investigations all over the place. on paper, that's what was good about jeb bush. and because of the bush family's history being able to woo and win hispanic votes. the republicans' other problem here is they're appealing to a dwindling majority soon to be a minority of white voters.
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and you describe those people in northeast, chris. those were the reagan democrats of the generation ago. chris christie is sort of the son of the reagan democrats. >> right. >> but there are fewer and fewer of those people to appeal to. and that's the other problem that the republicans have. >> okay. howard, great thinking here. michael tomasky, great piece. i think it shows the stakes of what we've been talking about the last couple of weeks, the vitality, the importance, of course, of governor christie to the republicans. coming up, the pop star who is dying to ask president obama about extraterrestrial life. well, that should grab you. that is coming up where it belongs, in the sideshow. this is "hardball," the place for politics. unique set of nutr. [ male announcer ] that's why there's ocuvite to help protect your eye health. as you age, your eyes can lose vital nutrients. ocuvite helps replenish key eye nutrients. ocuvite is a vitamin made just for your eyes from the eye care experts as bausch + lomb. ocuvite has a unique formula that's just not found in any leading multivitamin.
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in a little dorm room -- 2713. ♪ this magic moment ♪ back to "hardball." time for the sideshow. first lady michelle obama celebrated her 50th birthday with a party at the white house over the weekend. while the star-studded event included the likes of beyonce, paul mccartney, the clintons and stevie wonder, the white house enforced a strict no photographs rule, requiring all guests to check their cell phones at the door. luckily for us, jimmy fallon had the scoop. >> actually, the party went on all the way to 2:00 a.m. on saturday. which explains why on sunday barack expanded health care to include gatorade and tylenol. i guess they partied pretty hard because the president is actually getting a lot of attention over this new
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interview where he seems to be changing his stance on marijuana. that's right. he said marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol. then he said, in fact, i know this one guy used to smoke tons of weed, and he ended up president -- let's just say he did fine. he did really well. i say too much? >> and check out michelle obama's newly released let's move promo with players from the miami heat. >> drinking water is an important part of my pregame routine so i can stay focused and refreshed. >> you can take it from me. eating the right foods can help make you a better athlete. >> oh! and finally, pop star katy perry is taking credit for winning the state of wisconsin for president obama in 2012. in an upcoming article in "gq" magazine, the singer probably took a bit more than her share of the credit before backtracking. quote, i might have won wisconsin for him. actually, i didn't do too much, but he called on me a couple
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times, which was very nice. she also said she wants to ask president obama about the existence of extraterrestrial life. quote, i believe in a lot of astrology. i believe in aliens. i look up into the stars and i imagine how self-important we are to think that we are the only life form. i mean, if my relationship with obama gets any better, i'm going to ask him that question. it just hasn't been appropriate yet. i somehow doubt that's ever going to happen. anyway, up next, president obama does something he doesn't often do. he talked about race. and that's ahead. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics. [ male announcer ] if you can clear a crowd but not your nasal congestion,
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i'm milissa rehberger. here is what is happening. the massive winter storm punishing the east coast could leave behind a foot of snow in some areas. the storm is also packing high winds and subfreezing temperatures, which could last for days. travelers are having a tough time of it on the roads and in the air. thousands of flights have been canceled today, and another
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thousand more are canceled for wednesday. governors in delaware, new york, and new jersey have declared states of emergency due to the blizzard conditions. now back to "hardball." welcome back to "hardball." the president's delving into a topic he doesn't often talk about, race. and he is giving us some fascinating insights into how he thinks and feels about it. in a "new yorker" magazine profile this week, the president had this to say about his drop in support from white americans. quote, there is no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black president. now, the flip side of it is that there are some black folks, and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt, precisely because i'm a black president. an intriguing comment about his political hero, abraham lincoln, the president said this.
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i also think that despite being the greatest president in my mind in our history, it took another 150 years before african americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. i think that doesn't diminish lincoln's achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day, we're part of a long-running story. we just try to get our paragraph right. so where is the president's head right now and his heart on race? karen finney is the host of "disrupt" and clarence page is a columnist for the chicago tribune. karen and clarence, i really want to hear from both you. this is a candid conversation and a tricky one in some ways. first of all, karen, i have never detected from the distance you and i work from him, i'm not a friend of the president. i don't know him very well. i've met him three or four times and it's been cordial, but i don't know his heart. and yet he strikes me as someone coming from a mixed background of a white mother, white grandparents who were active in his upbringing, a distant if
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missing is probably the right word african father, that he is somehow someone who has a benefit of seeing things from many perspectives. and my view is he doesn't take sides even, if you will, in any kind of anger. but sarah palin, for example, today said he should stop playing the race card. i've never seen him play it. your thoughts. >> but you know, sarah palin and those guys say those things because they want to stifle conversation, which i think is dangerous. and i really give the president so much credit for talking so candidly about this, because look, these issues have been out there since he became president. i think we've all been having these conversations in our various circles. and so for the president to put it on the table is very important. i completely agree with you. i also come from a mixed background. my mother is white and my father is black. and i do think it gives you a different perspective from both sides of the color line in terms of how people view both within your culture and sort of the other culture. and so i think the comment that he made was very insightful and
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very much the same way when he talked after the verdict in the trayvon martin case, where i thought he was so candid, and, again, was speaking from the heart and just speaking to the reality of the way things are. >> clarence, do you think he meant to say 100 years after lincoln or 150? was that a rare misstatement by the president? he meant to say in the '60s when we got equality? >> i made enough verbal slips, i'm not going to fault him for saying 150 when he might have meant 100. at the same time, he was saying it has taken us 150 years to get the beginnings of equality. now, i'd say we're past the beginnings of it. but we still got a long way to go. that was his main point. especially now when you see the supreme court rolling back part of the voting rights act. you see prison incarceration has such a tremendous toll on the black community as well as others. the conservatives are now joining in the push to depopulate our prisons.
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i mean, we've still got a long way to go as far as deracializing a lot of class issues, for example, and opening up opportunity for all. i think that was obama's point. >> do you think he has ever played the race card? >> no. >> no, i don't think he has played the race card. i mean, i was in high school when sarah palin was still in the womb there 50 years ago. and i know the race card. i've had it played many times and i've seen the way it's played in chicago and many other places. obama has very carefully avoided trying to exploit race. he doesn't even bring up the topic, usually. somebody else brings it up which happened with david remnick with the new yorker. but karen is right. it's a big conservative talking point that barack obama is another jesse jackson or another louis farrakhan, or whatever. and they keep pushing that. >> and it's also not just barack obama. look, the very nature of the fact that we have an african american president means we're going to have a different
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conversation than we did when bill clinton was president, than george bush being president, and that race may factor into it. that does not mean we're playing the race card. that does not mean we're racializing the issue. that means we're acknowledging this is a person who comes to this job with a different set of experiences. and frankly, instead of experiences that is more in line, we're becoming a majority minority country. and, you know, that threatens some people. that's not playing the race card that is a conversation we cannot be afraid to have in this country. >> here comes something that always impresses me, the president's candor here. here he is in the new yorker article. on the issue of race and the electorate. he says the electorate is not a republican problem alone. listen to this. there were times in our history where democrats didn't seem to be paying enough attention to concerns of middle class folks or working class folks, black or white. and that is one of the great gifts of bill clinton to the party, to say, you know what? it's entirely legitimate for folks to be concerned about getting mugged. and you can't just talk about police abuse. how about folks not feeling safe
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outside their homes? clarence, i thought that was kind of a refreshing acknowledgment that working people, black and white are the ones that face crime. you know, they're not exactly rooting for criminals. they're the ones that get knocked off. and look at the racial numbers on victimhood. >> that's right. >> and i think the fact that he can talk like this is refreshing. your thoughts. >> well, it is. and i think obama saw bill clinton deracialize a lot of our politics back in '92 in reversing the southern strategy, if you will. i think obama is trying to do that now. he sees that working class, blue collar whites in particular have been most alienated from his side of the political spectrum and wants to point out hey, we've got a lot in common. we shouldn't let race, this one little thing relatively divide us from the big things that we share in common, like income inequality, issues like crime, education, et cetera. i think he is making that outreach. i don't know if it's going to succeed, but at least he is making the outreach. >> karen, i want you to
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interpret what the president does here, because i tried to bring him into a hot issue, just to show he doesn't play the race card. i was talking about race in this question. he wouldn't go there with me. so watch how he does this. anybody like palin who is dingbaty enough to think this guys plays the race card, should watch this answer. last month i interviewed the president. i asked him about tough new voter id laws. i criticized the effort. he did too. he also had candid remarks about the many americans who don't bother voting. let's watch. >> 36 states right now led by republican legislatures have been trying to make it difficult for minority people to vote, especially in big cities and older people. everybody knows the game. republicans often admit the game to deny people the vote. what is your reaction? >> you can't say you take pride in american democracy and american constitutionalism, american exceptionalism and then you're doing everything you can to make it harder for people to vote as opposed to easier for people to vote. our biggest problem right now is
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not the misguided efforts of some of these state legislators. our bigger problem is the one you alluded to earlier, which is people's skepticism that government in fact can make a difference. even in the best of years these days, we still only have about 40% of the population who is eligible to vote who chooses to opt out. they're not being turned away at the polls. they're turning themselves away from the polls. and that is something that we've got to get at. >> i tried to get him to talk race, and he gave me the league of woman voters here. he didn't go where i wanted him to go. how can you claim he is playing race? >> exactly. he did what he does so well, and that is, you know, chris, i think he gave you a very balanced answer. he acknowledged a nod to the fact that yes, the voter id and all the voter suppression we're seeing, that is a problem. but it is true that a bigger part of the problem, and this is part of the great struggle i think right now between progressives and conservatives. progressives believe in government. and part of believing in government is you want people to
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be engaged in the process. you want people to come out and vote, not trying to suppress the vote or not trying to make people feel like government doesn't work, so why should i go out and vote anyway. it was very interesting the way he kind of gave you a little bit of a perspective from both sides there. >> he sure did. he did not play race. and i'm telling you, i've seen it as a pattern, clarence. sometimes it drives me crazy he is so difference dent. he is difference dent. >> you're not the only one, chris. >> pail slinn out to lunch. thank you karen finney and thank you clarence page. coming up, rather than being transformational now, he sees himself as a relay swimmer in the river of history. and now he is trying to set up i think hillary clinton for the next leg of the relay. this is "hardball," the place for politics. male announcer ] wd of energy is so abundant, it can help provide the power for all this? natural gas. ♪ more than ever before, america's electricity is generated by it.
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pope francis is of course one of those popular leaders worldwide right now. and president obama is headed to the vatican to meet with him. according to a statement out of the white house, the president will meet the holy father on march 27th as a stop on his four-day trip to europe. the two leaders will talk about poverty and income inequality. two things the president has tried to tackle during his second term. and we'll be right back.
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welcome back to "hardball." it's hard to think of the circumstances under which hillary clinton decides not to run for president 2016. but the university of virginia's larry sabato had this to say today in a police in politico. now in her 60s, she knows as much as any human being alive what an arduous journey lies ahead. even for a heavily favored contender. there aren't too many shorter than hillary clinton. but as we watch with interest the unfolding surrounding chris christie, mrs. clinton may be watching and wondering if she really wants to put herself back into the meat grinder of professional politics all over again. joan walsh and ed rendell. joan, i want to start with you because you're smiling, because you always do. but if you're hillary clinton and you're thinking what a double edged sword, i'm watching the number one guy that might be able to knock me off. he was ahead of me by a point in the last quinnipiac poll, and i'm watching him getting ground
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like hamburger meat coming out of the grinder. >> right. >> and whatever survives doesn't look good. do i want to join that new york media market that has gone writ large now so the fact that we're all in the new york media market now it minutes. your thoughts? >> i think she does. i have no inside information. we should turn to governor rendell, because he's more likely to. but i think all signs indicate that she wants to do it. we will find out, i hope, later this year, i hope we find out soon. but for all of larry sab doe's great points, very great guy. black or white, or latino, or asian, republican or democrat, all of this that we'll be reading about, for months and months, she's still the best positioned person to do it. so i find some of that a little
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bit exaggerated. >> governor, it seems to me hillary clinton by any measure, 80% of the country, would accept her competence to be president, based on resume alone and experience at the higher level. so the only way they can knock her is to hit her personally, character. >> there's no question. and i think that it is something that she is considering. i think joan's analysis is right. if you want to be president of the united states, right now, you want to be hillary clinton. although, there's no sure thing. she certainly has the best chance of anyone alive to become president. but the question is that she has to decide, does she want to get into that meat grinder for two years, and then four or eight years as president, does she want to live the next ten years of her life in that type of pressure cooker. and remember, hillary clinton can be a rock star without running for president. she may be the only person other than bill clinton, alive, who can say that. she can be a rock star, she can go all over the world and be
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greeted like a hero, just because she's hillary clinton. so i'm not sure it's a slam dunk. if she decides to do it, i don't think there's a serious contender in the democratic ranks, chris. even the vice president, who's been a good vice president, will find that hillary clinton will have the heart and the soul of 80, 85% of the democratic fund-raising base. >> what do you make of this idea that larry summers, the genius from harvard, a great economist, a numbers guy. he doesn't stand by these numbers because they keep changing, but suggests that the best way to look at this is, what percentage chance is it that she's going to run? he puts it at 80? what percent chance if she runs he wins the nomination? and 60% chance if she gets to be the nominee at the convention, will she win? it seems the to me put up a model like this and you still only get a 38% chance she'll be the next president. so even if all the things are in your favor, so many things can happen. we can have a war, something can happen to the president,
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something can happen anywhere. the economy can be rocked. anything can happen between annoy and november of 2016. your thoughts on that and then over to joan. >> well, absolutely, there are so many things that can happen. there are so many external forces that can affect even a powerful person like hillary clinton's chances, although i think larry summers' numbers don't add up. >> no, they do, 38%. you can't argue with larry about numbers. >> but i don't think they make sense politically, because, she's certainly in the best position of anybody to become president, as joan says. the question isn't that. the question is, does she have the willingness to put herself through it. i think in the end, she's going to say yes. that's the question. winnability, i think hillary clinton understands what the odds are, and i think she believes she can win. and i think she believes she'll be a good president. so in the end, i think she's going to do it, but it's not an easy decision. >> okay, let me go to joan, last
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question, quick. yes, she wants to resume, yes, she'll win the nomination, a good bet. the general election, will they try to terrorize her over something like benghazi? will this get very personal? >> i'm sure it will get very personal. but the demographics are in her favor. states tough for the president, i'm sad to say, for racial issues like ohio become easier for her. but it's really a matter of passion. does she present herself as the person to tackle income inequality. the person to tackle the problems that are making it tough for a lot of people in this country. can she come at this in a new way? i believe she can, but she's got to have that conversation with herself, and then she's got to have it with the american people. she cannot take this for granted. the three of us have said that over and over and over. >> so well said. thank you, joan walsh. thank you, governor rendell. we'll be right back after this. it can help provide the power for all this? natural gas. ♪ more than ever before, america's electricity is generated by it. exxonmobil uses advanced visualization
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let me finish tonight with this. sarah palin doing her darnedest to honor martin luther king day, posted to her facebook account, mr. president, in honor of martin luther king jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card. well, there's something truly sinister in this remark. say what you will about the president's policies, about his politics, both are fair game. but excuse me, madame, former governor, it's my reckoning that this president born to black and white presidents has been extraordinarily free of bringing race into politics. you can put the late johnnie cochran at one end of the spectrum and him in the other. case in point, my interview with him. i gave the president a huge
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target to speak about. i asked him what he thought about the republican party's efforts in three different states to suppress the votes of minorities. did he go for it? briefly, yes. he questioned how a person could hold to faith in american exceptionalism, and then do everything he could to make it harder for people to vote. did he dwell on that point? no. he immediately moved to what he called the bigger problem of people having given up so much of government in politics, they don't even bother to vote, even when it's easy. play the race card? this president discards the race issues more than you can imagine. what he said to david remnick is so common and street wise, it should be applauded by the most conservative of listener. what other president has spoken about issues of crime and public safety in such a common sense way as this one just did to david remnick? again, everything this man has done with his life, his clean living, his raising his family, his fidelity to his marriage, his commitment to his education and public service squares with what every white conservative holds as the american ideal. hate is politics, hate is policies, but, please, don't say he's playing the race card
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anymore he's played in his life, the cheap and nasty stereotypes the haters carry so neatly and smugly in that their hearts. he ain't the guy you hate, unless you just hate. and that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "all in with chris hayes" starts right now. good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes. well, it has been a rough, rough day for the two former futures of the republican party. four years ago, this week, chris christie in new jersey and bob mcdonnell of virginia took the oaths of office to become the governors of their respective states. and in doing so, assumed the positions as the best candidates to lead the republican party out of one of its darkest periods. it was just a year after president obama had taken his oath of office, president barack hussein obama of jeremiah wright fame, of palling around with terrorist fame, the

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